The next steps in a dispute between Yellowknife Mayor Mark Heyck and city councillor Niels Konge are taking shape, as councillors directed the city's senior administrative officer to begin the process of forming a Conduct Review Committee.
Last week, Heyck held a press conference in which he announced he was facing a code of conduct complaint filed by Konge and co-signed by councillor Steve Payne, alleging that Heyck failed to remove himself from a closed-door meeting, which Konge says created a conflict of interest.
Heyck called the complaint against him "vexatious and frivolous," saying it was retaliation for how he dealt with complaints from city employees against Konge in 2015, including his conduct towards city employees at a work site, where Konge was working as a contractor.
At the press conference, the mayor announced that he was filing a complaint against Konge, co-signed by councillor Shauna Morgan.
The remaining five city councillors weighed in on the dispute through a letter released to local media, saying that a soon-to-be-appointed Conduct Review Committee would be investigating both complaints.
In an email to CBC, Heyck said that he was willing to entertain "an alternative approach" to resolving his dispute with Konge informally. Konge told CBC that he would withdraw his complaint if Heyck agreed to issue a public apology and reimburse the legal expenses he incurred defending against the initial complaints.
'All councillors have had to wade in, to some degree, on this'
A discussion of the committee was the last agenda item in Tuesday's Municipal Services Committee meeting. Heyck, Konge, and Payne recused themselves from the discussion, though Morgan remained, saying that she was reassured by Sheila Bassi-Kellett, the city's senior administrative officer, that she was not in a conflict of interest.
Bassi-Kellett explained that according to city policy, the committee will include two city councillors, as well as a lawyer, an accountant or auditor, someone with experience in public administration, and a member of the public. She noted that a Conduct Review Committee had not been struck in years. The last time one was required was in 2006, and a decision was made to have the city's audit committee take on its role.
"Clarity is something we're all looking for in this," she said. "The rules of conduct, frankly, is quite old, and it was something that we noted in the governance review that it's long overdue for a refresh, and an update."
A decision was made to have Bassi-Kellett come up with a list of recommended candidates for the committee in the interest of expediency. She'll also present a short list of other potential candidates to council for approval.
During the discussion, Morgan raised the possibility of striking a committee without including councillors, saying that "we've all taken positions or taken votes on issues related to this in in-camera sessions or otherwise."
Bassi-Kellett said that would be a decision for council to make, adding that "there's definitely some degree of grey area on this.
"All councillors have had to wade in, to some degree, on this, so the issue of neutrality is very important," she said. "This is definitely something to consider."
Bassi-Kellett also recommended that the committee sit for a fixed term — no longer than one year — while council determines whether an update to the current conduct review process is warranted.